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I was fortunate in being thus introduced. His eyes beamed, and as some young ladies made their appearance he exclaimed, addressing them by name:
“ Here is Mr. from Virginia. He is -'s brother."
A stroll through the small but well arranged and very attractive grounds, succeeded; and during the walk Mr. Irving talked in an easy, humorous and cordial manner on every subject. It was his nature to look at life on this tranquil, sunshiny side, as any one could see at a glance ; but on this morning he had two causes of special enjoyment and good humor.
"My gardener's children have just been here," he said with his amiable smile ; " they have a little fête to.day, and were covered with wreaths and garlands of flowers. You don't know my gardener, Mr. D-? He is a worthy man. I heard lately that his wife had been confined and congratulated him upon it. But he looked very rueful, and all that he said was, “ It was twins, Mr. Irving !'”
A short shy laugh followed this anecdote, which seemed to afford him great enjoyment. Indeed, everything appeared to present itself to his mind in a comic light, and his conversation bore a very close resemblance to the humorous writing in the Sketch Book, the Tales of a Traveller, and Bracebridge Hall. It was a sly, lurking, evanescent species of fun, arising plainly, as I have said, from his habit of looking at the humorous side of life, even in trifles. This tendency was the trait which I suppose impressed everybody as the main characteristic of Mr. Irving. I may say that he impressed me as a quiet, pleasant gentleman, simply; and the statement involves a high compliment. There was nothing whatever of the “great author" in his bearing; and his address was simple, easy, friendly and unceremonious - the perfection, it seemed to me, of good breeding. This had doubtless resulted from his long association with the really best society of Europe and America. His "life" indicates that in England and on the Continent he was always warmly welcomed by the most intelligent and agreeable classes, from Kings and Queens to the simplest ; and that his friendship was regarded as an honor by the first men of the old world, and of his own country. The result was ease and simplicity; and any one could see in a few minutes that Mr. Irving was “a perfect gentleman,” as well as a man of attractive humor and powers of conversation.
We were very fortunate, my friend afterwards said, in finding him so well. As his "life" shows, he had been laboring all through the early months of the year under prolonged and most distressing nervous agitation, which prevented him from sleeping, filled him with a “great horror” of being alone at night, and utterly unfitted him for society. This continuous nervous excitement was destined to bring his life to a close before the end of the year; and it was our good fortune to make our visit during one of the few brief intervals in which he felt well and was able to receive his friends. I did not even suspect the presence of this persistent and soon to be mortal disease at the time. Mr. Irving's voice was firm and cordial, his
smile bright, his walk easy and unlabored, and he resembled any elderly gentleman strolling quietly through his grounds, admiring the flowers, smiling, chatting with a friend, and enjoying life in the tranquil fashion of old gentlemen who have learned to value quiet pleas
I have only a faint recollection of the desultory conversation which took place on this bright summer day, and am sometimes disposed to regret that I did not direct the colioquy to certain subjects, and ask Mr. Irving some questions. This I did not do, and only recall the general tenor of his talk. He spoke at some length of Sir Walter Scott, and of the artist Leslie, his friend in London. Scott, he said, was delightful company — always ready for a ramble about the country — and a very rapid writer ; indeed, it seemed impossible that, with all the company at Abbotsford, he could find time to compose ; the secret was that he wrote before breakfast.
With Leslie, of whom he spoke warmly, he had travelled once, he said, to Stratford-on-Avon, to visit the home of Shakspeare. The journey was charming, and he had urged Leslie to paint “Shakspeare before Sir Thomas Lucy." The artist however could not catch the inspiration, and had not done so.
A reference to the late Emperor of France directed the conversation toward him, and Mr. Irving said :
“Yes, he is a remarkable man. When he was in America he came to see me one morning on his way to West Point, which seemed to interest him. He breakfasted with us, and sat just where you are sitting now, Mr. · (this was related whilst we were at dinner.) He was grave and silent, scarcely opening his lips while here.' A young French Count who was with him was more agreeable, and a much greater favorite with the ladies."
Of the Empress Eugenie he said :
“I knew her very well in Spain, when she was little Eugénie de Montijo, daughter of the Count de Téba. She was a fine buxom girl
a beautiful figure ; and at the balls appeared as a female mousquetaire. I often held her on my knee when she was a child, and now to think she is an Empress! I saw old Calderon, the Spanish Minister, when I was in Washington lately, and he said to me: _Good heavens, Irving, just to think! Little Eugénie de Montijo Empress of France ! Hum! — hum ! - hum !?"
In the evening we bade Mr. Irving and his hospitable household farewell, and returned to New York — not dreaming that his peaceful and happy life was rapidly drawing to a close, and that before the first snows of winter he would have passed away. In view of this I have always considered my visit truly fortunate. I saw this good and kind gentleman just as the last bright rays of the sunset of his life fell upon him — in the midst of the home scenes which his writings had rendered so attractive — and on a summer's day, when all the world around him was bright, beautiful, and in accord with his own sweet character and long and happy career.
I shall add to this brief sketch a letter which I received from Mr. Irving a few days afterwards. This letter will not be found of peculiar interest, but it will show his ready and kindly courtesy to a
stranger, and it would appear from his “Life and Letters "— was, with a single exception, the last that he wrote. He was then laboring under his nervous disorder, which made it almost impossible for him to hold a pen, and the chirography is somewhat hurried and uncertain, but perfectly legible. The note, as will be seen, was written as an acknowledgment of the receipt of a book sent him. The following is a copy, with a few words left blank:
of the pen.
“SUNNYSIDE, June 24, 1859. “My Dear Mr. —: I beg you to excuse my tardiness in replying to your very obliging letter, and acknowledging the receipt of the very entertaining volume which you have had the kindness to send me; but in truth I have had a temporary attack of my nervous complaint, which obliges me to forego, as much as possible, the exercise
“I had already read your volume, some time since, when it first came out, and had been greatly pleased with the pictures it gave of Virginian life and Virginian characters, both of the — and the order. I delight in everything that brings scenes before me of the Ancient Dominion, which to me is a region full of social and romantic associations; and I have re-read your work with additional interest, now that I have become personally acquainted with the author.
“I look back with great pleasure to the visit of yourself and Mr. D— as giving me a most agreeable day of social chat, which is quite a godsend to an invalid in the country, and I shall be very happy if you will favor me with a treat of the kind whenever it may suit your convenience. “In the meantime believe me, with great regard, “Yours very truly,
" WASHINGTON IRVING."
Painfully soon after the receipt of this kind note, came the intelligence that the hand of the good man who wrote it was cold in death.
J. ESTEN COOKE.
OLD MR. WEIL, THE BROKEN-HEARTED.
N a little graveyard in the beautiful town of Santa Clara, Cali
fornia, there is a grave without headstone or aught to show the name of him who lies beneath, yet the flowers are the sweetest and brightest, the green grass above it ever the greenest, never fading from the beauty of spring during the whole year, even when the long droughts of that State have dried and shrivelled up every particle of sward or greenness elsewhere. There is simply the evidence of one departed, yet whose memory lingers, not yet faded, among the living. Many who visit the graveyard linger at this grave, half-fascinated with the green beauty gleaming like an emerald in the yellow band that circles it; for in its loneliness, its want of other features that attract the eye in such a place, there is an undefined sense of mystery — and mystery is always attractive. Once standing in the graveyard with the venerable Dr. M., the rector of the church in Santa Clara Valley, I asked him who was lying in this grave. He replied, “It is the grave of one of the very lowly of this earth ; yet around his life. there hangs a tale of pathos and humor which perhaps will repay you for taking some pains to learn, I know very little about the case, except that I was summoned by some kind-hearted people to see a poor old man who had crawled into a deserted house and had laid himself down to die. When I arrived, some children had placed under him some hay and straw, and a lady in the neighborhood had thrown over him a sheet and blanket and placed by him something to eat. He was delirious at the time, and so frequently mentioned the name of a brother-rector in San Francisco that I sent word to him, and he came down to administer to his needs, and told me the story of a life lowly but not devoid of poetry.” I asked the doctor to tell me the story; instead of doing which he directed me to his brother-rector. Subsequently, on a visit to San Francisco, I visited the rector of Church there, and, after introducing myself and giving my letters, I spoke of the interest the grave had excited, heightened by the little I had learned from Dr. M., and asked him to tell
me the history which had ended su sadly in Santa Clara.
“We are just going to dinner, and if you will permit me to be your host for the remainder of the evening, after dinner I will take great pleasure in satisfying your wish,” he replied.
After dinner we retired to the rector's study, and I learned the
OLD MR. Weil, THE BROKEN-HEARTED. Several years ago I was visited by a young girl about to be married. This marriage met with the violent opposition of her father, and she desired me to perform it secretly. I sought to convince her how wrong such a course would be ; that as a professing Christian she should show that regard to her parent's wishes which would at least defer the ceremony until his consent should be gained, and make the future a subject of earnest prayer. To this she demurred; and when I simply repeated the commandment with promise, she left with an expression on her features that convinced me my advice had been without effect. Soon after I learned she was married. She was a simple-minded girl: her mother had died when she was but a child, and her father's teaching and home had not been the most favorable to develop obedience and filial respect.
From that time for several years I entirely lost sight of them all. Five or six years after, at a very late hour one night, when the rain was pouring down as it only can or does pour in California at times, I was going home from the bedside of one of my communicants, when a short distance in front of me I saw the bent form of an old man slowly shuffling along, apparently with great pain. I could see by the flickering glare of the gas-lamp that his clothes were in rags, and as he approached the lamp-post he was forced to stop and lean against it with a heavy sigh of pain and weariness. I stopped
I and spoke to the old man with as cheery a voice as possible :-“Why, my good fellow, this is a bad night for you to be out. Where is your home?" He looked at me with a half-stupid, half-indifferent look, and replied, “I live on the corner of and - streets. I have been to my daughter's to get something to eat; but the rain kept me, and I've got the rumatiz so bad I can hardly walk.” After getting him to his wretched abode, getting his wet clothes off and him to bed, and building a fire in his rickety stove in such a way that the tears stood in his eyes as he begged me to desist, for it was all the fuel he had, I left him, promising to return in the morning and see that his wants were supplied.
The medical purveyor of the U. S. A. in California, Dr. —, is one of the noblest men heaven's sun ever shone upon. He is a Christian gentleman without reproach. His skill and his means have never been refused to those who needed them; so, learning the state of old Mr. Weil — for it was he, the father of the girl whom I had not married — he visited him, giving his attendance and furnishing him with medicines. The old man was very ill. His nurses, a few Christian women who took their turns watching at his bed, sometimes despaired of his life. His daughter visited him often; but for a long time it was impossible for me to catch a glimpse of her — she avoided me carefully. "At length when the approach of death seemed near, and she could not leave her father's side, we watched one night together. She soon opened her heart to me. Her married life had been unhappy. Her husband was not unkind, but rough. He had never forgiven the opposition of her father, and had never allowed him to enter his door. Even when sick, he would not assist the old man in any way. She was poor, with an increasing family, had not much at her command, and whatever she did for her father was done surreptitiously. I soon saw her own mental malady had increased, and there were at times a wildness and incoherency in her conversation, if it could be called such, that caused me to fear for her reason. She had three children, the eldest of whom, a bright, beautiful girl of five years of age, is the only one that has to do with this story.